Residents can play soccer again in Mosul, without IS rules

Residents can play soccer again in Mosul, without IS rules

MOSUL, Iraq — After months of fighting, Mosul residents can finally practice their favourite game again at a soccer field in the eastern part of the city — and this time without the restrictions imposed by Islamic State group militants.

The venue was closed for almost four months while Iraqi forces and militants fought a fierce battle for the city. Signs of war are still visible, with broken windows and damaged fences surrounding the field and with holes in the rooftop of the canteen.

“It was closed for three to four months and we reopened after the liberation,” said Abu Laith Mohammed, the manager of the soccer field.

The field was allowed to stay open when IS controlled the area, but the militants imposed strict rules on the game, including a dress code that forced players to cut teams’ insignia from their jerseys and a ban on referees’ whistles.

“It wasn’t as much fun,” said 26-year-old Obeyda Mohammed after he finished a game one afternoon with his friends. “They introduced new rules that never existed in sports before.”

The players weren’t allowed to wear logos or brand names on soccer shirts because the militants considered them to be idolatrous.

“I had to stand at the entrance of the pitch with scissors,” said 31-year-old Mohammed Sadiq, who works at the soccer field. He then had to cut the logos of teams such as Real Madrid and Barcelona from the jerseys.

“They called them infidel logos,” he said.

Soccer is very popular in Iraq and many people root for big European teams like Manchester United, Chelsea or Barcelona.

“We couldn’t wear shorts. We had to wear trousers like this,” said Obeyda Mohammed, pointing at a tracksuit one of his fellow players was wearing.

“But it had to be baggy, not tight. By the way, the brands and logos of companies like Adidas, Nike and the others were forbidden.”

The militants also ordered the referees not to use whistles during the game “because the sound would make the devils gather,” the players said.

Trophies and medals were also forbidden because it was thought that they would encourage greed. Tournaments could not be organized either.

Mohammed Sadiq said there wasn’t a time limit on a match, which under normal rules should last 90 minutes, and IS fighters would typically abandon the game after 15 minutes or so when they didn’t feel like playing anymore.

Games also had to be stopped for prayers.

“I had to bring prayer mats for the players and put them on the football pitch and lead the prayer for them,” he said.

The militants also made the players remove the five Olympic rings from the building because they said it was the sign of infidels.

“We tried to tell them it represented the five continents and had nothing to do with the infidels but it was useless. We had to bring a blacksmith with a grinder to cut them off,” Mohammed Sadiq said.

Bram Janssen And Salar Salim, The Associated Press

Just Posted

Dear Santa: the Langley Advance presents local children’s letters to the jolly old elf

During the holidays, the Langley Advance will present letters to Santa. Here is the first selection.

Car fire destroys vehicle in Langley

Firefighters doused a car fire that sent a lot of smoke into the air in Langley.

VIDEO: Hankering for a piece of Star Wars?

A massive Star Wars memorabilia collection is going on the auction block in Langley.

South Surrey shots-fired accused due back in court Jan. 2

Cameron Barton arrested Sept. 25 in White Rock

Cloverdale’s Thunder Colts hockey team raises thousands for Burn Fund

Barbeque event brings in $3,400, donations accepted until Friday, Dec. 15

VIDEO: Recovering addict shares art and story to motivate others

A Langley City man spends time each day painting in McBurney Plaza.

Court denies WestJet’s bid to toss out discrimination lawsuit of former worker

Mandalena Lewis is suing WestJet over allegations of gender-based discrimination

VIDEO: 3 months later, rescued sea lion released back into ocean

The young animal was found in Campbell River three months ago

Sagmoen neighbours recall alleged hammer attack

Woman was screaming outside Maple Ridge townhouse in 2013

UPDATED: Train collides with car in Maple Ridge

Mother and child both uninjured, track cleared at 11 a.m.

Accused B.C. drug smuggler to be extradited

Supreme Court of Canada upholds extradition order for accused Shuswap drug smuggler, Colin Martin

One convicted, two cleared in 2014 deaths of men in B.C.’s Cariboo

Andrew Jongbloets convicted of manslaughter in deaths of Matthew Hennigar, 23 and Kalvin Andy, 22

VIDEO: Pedestrian struck by vehicle caught on security camera

Incident points to danger on the roads not only in low light but also in bright sunshine

Firefighter dies, thousands more take on California blaze

This is second death linked to the Thomas fire, northwest of Los Angeles

Most Read